Archive for the ‘Ireland Site Seeing’ Category
If you read my previous post on Operation Eskimo Roll then you know that myself and some unwitting colleagues of mine decided to take on a white water kayaking marathon in Ireland. The dangers of “living Social” should be my next story. In order to explain my thought process I figured I would give you some consulting:
So there we are. Five brave, or misguided, souls signed up for a perilous 28 kilometre kayaking race down the Liffey River in Ireland. In the weeks running up to the event the team began to get a bit nervous. I warned them against watching videos on You Tube since that would surely be of the worst moments in Liffey Descent history, but they did it anyhow.
You need to have a certain level of experience in order to get into the event which we convinced our instructor vouch for. I heard through the grape vine that he took a bit of slagging for signing us off when we had only had five 2 hour sessions of training. But don’t fear! We had a full 3 more weeks to get into shape! I heard Caleb once did 10 pushups during that time. I went on holiday to the Amalfi Coast where I got plenty of arm exercise lifting bottles of red wine and getting massages. So now that we were all SUPER fit it was nearly time to go.
In order to make it down in one piece we hired an experienced guide to bring us through. He also happened to work at an outfitter…. So we went out to the shop, iCanoe, to get gear fitted. We were fully expecting the same crap gear we had for the classes; torn wetsuits, scratchy cags, worn out helmets, flimsy spray decks, and buoyancy aids that were short on buoyancy. MUCH to our surprise when we showed up at the shop they fitted us out in all brand new gear! Everything except the actual kayaks was brand new. Needless to say this invigorated the team and suddenly all second thoughts evaporated like rain off a hot southern road. Suddenly everyone was confident and ready for the challenge.
Race day arrives, and shockingly, we’ve had 4 days of heavy rain but completely sunny on the day of the race. I should have mentioned before that during the training, every Tuesday evening, we had absolutely stunning weather and loads of water on the river. I don’t know why, but it was meant to be. WE would literally have Monday and Wednesday lashing rain, but Tuesday…..gorgeous. Same on race day. The heavy rain meant the river was even higher than normal for the event. The flow is controlled by the local utility from the damn. They typically release the water for the event to near flood stage. This year it was even higher, making for a very anxious fab 5.
We gather at the finish line at the Garda Boat house on the Liffey. The water is REALLY high, but the team is in good form. We jump in with the guides and the gear and head up about an hour up the highway to the entry point at Straffan. The gathering area is much like you would expect, a parking lot. Unfortunately there wasn’t any tailgating going on. Everyone was very serious. As we get close to the hour everyone begins moving towards the river entry point anxious to get in the water. We had been told that we would have to paddle UP RIVER for a distance which was very vague and varied depending on who we talked to. It started at 100 meters and by the time we were getting in it was closer to reality at about 700 meters. L With the river running at full flood, this was no simple task. Thank God we had all been training soooo hard for this and were in excellent shape. NOT. By the time we got to the starting point we were all questioning whether we could do it.
Now, like all good stories this one has a beginning, a middle, and an end.
The beginning was already proving a challenge having just paddled up river for ½ hour. Since there were various classes in the race, the really fast kayaks, K1s and K2s, went first, followed by the largest group, the GPs, which was our group. Our group consisted mostly of one man whitewater kayaks. The last group were the open canoes, or as they are called here, the Canadian Canoes. Did Canadians invent the open canoe? I thought it was the American Indians. Oh well. Now…. to say I know a few Canadians would be an understatement of great magnitude. So I will tell you; this bunch of rowdy, angry, mischievous, no good, run over you in a minute, flip each other over, with complete disregard for the rules type of people could not be farther from Canadian! They are the last group to leave the start because they are well known marauders and trouble makers. As we push past the starting line, we can hear them in the background getting chastised by the official for trying to start too soon. “928 your disqualified!”, “back paddle 946!”, “”Stop at the line CANADIANS!”, “This is being videotaped and you WILL be disqualified!”. With every yell over the bullhorn you could hear the barbarian hoard boo and hiss. It was quite unsettling to know they were going to come over the drops and pretty much run you over if you were in the way. The first weir, or drop is called Straffan Weir. It’s a long straight weir that runs the whole distance across the river with a trough along the left side for the more advanced. The drop itself is probably 10 feet on about an 80 degree angle. Because this is the first drop the racers tend to bunch up and there is complete carnage. Today was no different. As we were all novices, we decided to basically stick to the back of our group. By the time we got there the Canadians were overtaking us. The first weir was great! I got through safely, barely. I nearly flipped. I may also have forgotten to mention that none of us actually learned the Eskimo roll in our training…. Luckily there is plenty of river rescue at each drop along the race, there are 12. Two members of the 5 man team flipped on the first weir. Tjalf and Bob. The carnage on the other side of the weir was something to behold. Every form of kayak, and canoe strung along the shoreline in different stages of disaster. We waited for our team members there to get back in their kayaks so we could move down river and I heard Bob say he “actually felt refreshed and cooler after the swim”. Nice spin on that, swimmer! J Back on our way, we head into the long road to the middle.
The first part of the middle is called the “jungle”. Not that Ireland has anything that would vaguely resemble a jungle, but the river does go through a winding slow 6 miles. The trees and brush are overgrown and encroach on the river at some points leaving only room for one kayak at a time. While the river is running at very high levels, the meandering nature of this section makes this a gruelling 6 miles. No rapids, no weirs, just paddle paddle paddle. Once again I am really thankful at all the preparations and the strict training program. You do pass through some very scenic farmlands and rolling hills which would have been wonderful if my forearms and hands weren’t cramped. The only saving grace was that they were cramped into a fist so I could hold onto my paddle and keep going. Not ideal, but hey, I was still moving forward! As we finally came through the jungle we had another weir, can’t remember the name, but it was fairly mild with about a 6 foot drop at a 60 degree angle. It was still fun and a nice change. A bit further down river and we hit THE LAKE! As the Irish say “Jazis!”. No current, no wind, wide kayaks, and a lake that seemed to go on forever. In honesty, I think it was only just over a mile, but it felt like an eternity. At the other end of the lake we had to get out of our kayaks in order to carry them around the lexslip dam. I hadn’t flipped at this point yet, until I got right to the shore and tried to get out of my kayak. My legs were asleep. I rolled into the water, filled my kayak with muddy water and flopped about for a few seconds before regaining my exposure and pulling my kayak up the hill. Time for a quick energy bar and a banana and then haul the kayak about 100 meters down the lower side of the dam. The entry point was…. interesting. The flow is quite strong so you have to paddle as hard as possible to the opposite side of the river in order not to get pinned on one of the bridge columns. Makes for an interesting start to the next leg. From here we nearly got into areas that we had seen before in our “training”. There’s one that is a very steep drop at Lucan Weir that must be 12 feet high. At least it felt that way. You hit the bottom and it feels like you’re through just when it starts to pull you back. Time to cruise on down the road! We get a bit further down to Wren’s Next Weir which is tricky. There are 3 different paths down; the left which is a straight drop, the “V” which is the hardest section which is where the weir has a 90 degree angle in the middle of the river. The “V” is the center of the 90 degree angle. If you don’t end up dead center….. it gets ugly. So naturally, I took the easy route along the left side. The far right side I had attempted in training, but flipped every time so I decided against that one!
Nearing the end. There was a set of rapids and then another couple of small weirs before we get to the best one; drumroll, Palmerstown Weir. Another “V” but this one has a big standing wave at the bottom so when you push over the “V” you shoot face first into an overhead wave. It’s BRILLIANT! There’s a clip of this one on youtube since we had the guides film it. We all committed to taking the hardest path through the weir since it was near the end and we needed a bit of glory. Caleb went first and had a very exciting trip down with lots of thrashing and plashing and paddling. It all looked very professional. I believe Eoin went next. He always looked completely knackered because he was leaning back so far in his kayak. Rule of thumb is lean forward, but he made it without incident. I was third and punched through the wave with a loud yell. In the video it looks like I’m drinking a couple pints from the Liffey. Not the case! It was brilliant, and went off without a hitch. Bob was the next victim, and he made it look easy until right before hitting the wave where he really grimaces. Finally, Tjalf…… Tjalf had swam already once today, but we were expecting great things here. As he comes up to the edge of the drop, he almost stops completely and gets sucked over! If momentum is the key to survival then surely a lack of momentum would be the death of you. Luckily, he didn’t die. He did get dragged along the trough at the bottom of the weir until he got to the end where he dislocated his shoulder and was flipped out of his kayak. Not joking. Poor Tjalf had to be pulled out of the water and put in an ambulance to the nearest hospital in Blanchardstown. There was one more small weir and then the push to the end. We got to the finish line to find most of the people had already arrived and were drinking merrily. We had the unfortunate duty to tell Tjalf’s girlfriend, who had flown in for the event from the Netherlands, that she needed to get in a taxi to the hospital. L The good news is we all, well almost all, finished in enough time to be recorded! At just about 4 hours. Now, to be fair to ourselves, we did have some guys who flipped and waited for. That’s the kind of friends we are! No man left behind! Except Tjalf. But he went with the ambulance. So…. almost no man left behind! The party at the Garda boat house was on until 4 am, but as for us, we did the right things and went to the hospital to check on Tjalf. Maybe it was to get the gear back so we didn’t have to pay for it. Whatever the reason, we went to the hospital. After that we all headed back to my place for a great celebratory dinner put together by Claire! We had some other fans of the team show up and we had a great time revelling in all our glorious accomplishments, lamenting Tjalf, and getting pissed (that’s drunk in Irish). As you’ll find with most good stories in Ireland they either start out getting pissed or end up that way. A great time was had by all, and a great achievement to log in my file cabinet.
In case you haven’t noticed, John snuck in a post the other day. But he wanted to keep it on the DL so he made a separate tab. Look for “John’s posts” on the top of the home page. Now I have outed him.
Our latest Ireland adventure involved bog snorkelling, which is exactly what it sounds like. Someone got an idea a few years ago to start this competition as a way to promote tourism in County Meath. Now we had the 3rd annual Irish Bog Snorkeling Championships. It sounded utterly pointless and ridiculous. So of course, I convinced John that we had to go and he had to participate. Not a hard sell. We packed the kids into the car the next Saturday and headed inland towards Meath. The bog itself was really more of a trench, but why quibble? There was a bouncy house for the kids, beer for the adults and grilled hamburgers for all. Who wouldn’t like that?
Each person swims individually with their efforts being timed and then compared to other in their group. The groups were men, women and youth. John was set to swim about 12th out of all the men scheduled. He was the only one to not swim in a wetsuit. After his turn he was in the lead! And he stayed there until the bitter end, only to be usurped by the German bog snorkelling champ and last year’s Irish 1st and 2nd place. For about a week after, he kept lamenting that if he had known he was a contender, he would’ve put more effort into it. He had just not wanted to make a fool of himself. So, now we are in training for next year! While I was stoked when he was winning, I was glad that the last few people knocked him out of place. It was already 5:30, with an hour ride back to Dublin and the “awards ceremony” wasn’t until 9pm that night at some Meath pub.( I don’t have any pics of John actually in the bog, as I was totally focused on filming the video, which I will upload here.) On the way home, we saw the most amazing, brilliant rainbow. When we pulled over to really gape at it, as second, lighter rainbow appeared and made a double rainbow.
Another weekend, we decided to head to Glendalough (pronounced Glen-da-lock). It’s a picturesque area in the mountains that has some famous ruins. When we left Dublin, it was raining. But if you let rain in Ireland keep you home, you’ll never leave the house. So we pressed on. By the time we got there, it was torrential, with no signs of stopping. After waiting a bit, we drove off the main drag and ate our picnic lunch in the car. We parked in front of a much smaller set of ruins. After eating, the kids decided to get out and tromp around, rain be damned. John got a picture of Sophie that should be submitted to the tourism board, “come visit our ruins!”. Ha!
Headed away we noticed a dirt road that no one without a 4-wheeled drive would attempt. So, we headed down it. It was good and bumpy and great fun until the road literally ended into a hiking path. So, we headed back. But happy to have an adventure even in the rain and certainly one we wouldn’t have had sitting at home on the Ikea couch.
As these last days of the longest summer of my life tick by, I am trying to balance out the park days (days we just make some sandwiches and head to Herbert Park in the hood) and days of outings where we try to do some new activity in Dublin. Today, I decided to take Soph, John, and Lincoln to Dublinia, the Dublin Viking Museum. It’s got some pretty good exhibit areas, showing how the Vikings lived, fought, and even went to the bathroom. (The expression on the wax figure they have sitting on the Viking toilet is priceless. Someone at Dublinia has a sense of humor). But, as Sophie pointed out several times, the wax figures were “creepy” and she was not a big fan. Can’t really disagree.
Dublinia is connected to Christ Church. So, we bought tickets to check that out, mainly to see the mummified remains in the crypt below the church. Someone had told me about these and the kids seemed keen to check them out, especially Lincoln. Sophie was the most hesitant, especially after the wax figures. We wandered down under the main knave of the church to the crypt, which sounds spooky. In actuality, it was like a very well lit wine cellar, minus the wine. It had beautiful arches and several display cases of some of the church’s treasures, like gold plates and goblets. Turns out that there are no mummified people remains down there. However, it is home to a mummy cat and mummy rat that were found trapped in the organ in the 1860’s and were immortalized (even more!) by Joyce in Ulysses.
In the cheerful and weirdly cozy crypt there is also a small café to one side, with tables and chairs and puffy red velvet couches. The kids insisted that this was the perfect spot for lunch, so we sat and ordered some sandwiches and drinks. Lincoln was the first to finish his food and start acting the fool, as his babysitter might say. So I tried to sternly tell him, “Do you know whose house this is? It’s God’s house. And if you misbehave in God’s house, he is going to be very upset with you”. Normally, I NEVER pull out the “God is watching you” card. But he had just been talking about Santa and being very despondent about his chances for presents this Christmas, based on his own self-assessment that “I am always bad. I hit John.” So, I had been about to say that Santa was watching him, but then the God thing popped in my mind because of the locale. As soon as I gave my “This is God’s house…” etc. speech Soph and John looked at me and then both burst out laughing. I couldn’t resist and started laughing too .I guess dogma is more effective when the person delivering it at least believes it themselves.